Cooper at Haw River

Gov. Roy Cooper talks to some students at Haw River Elementary School.

As part of his tour of public schools across the state to push Republican legislators to increase their proposed spending on schools, Gov. Roy Cooper toured and spoke at Haw River Elementary on Thursday.

“I am here to encourage our legislature to do better. We need to pay teachers better and give them the respect that they deserve,” Cooper said.

Cooper has been going to schools across the state as he labels the state budget proposals as “extreme legislation” that would worsen the state’s teacher shortage and “choke the life out of public education in North Carolina.”

“I sent a budget to the legislature which is perfectly balanced and provides for an 18% increase in teacher pay for our state,” Cooper said at Haw River Elementary. “It is desperately needed and would put our state number one in the Southeast, which is where our state needs to be.”

Cooper noted that the last budget proposal from the state Senate would provide only a 4.5% increase over two years and would give veteran teachers a $250 raise over two years while focusing on newer hires.

“That’s a slap in the face and an intentional insult,” he said.

Cooper also slammed a Republican proposal to provide private school tuition vouchers for people at any income level.

“They’ve set aside more than $3 billion dollars for investment in sending children to private schools. The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill at the expense of the public schools,” Cooper said.

Cooper expressed an extreme need for attracting and hiring teachers here in North Carolina to fill more than 5,000 teaching vacancies.

ABSS is trying to keep prospective teachers close to home with its Teacher Cadet Program, in which ABSS students shadow teachers and are offered a chance to come back after getting their college degrees to teach at an ABSS school, Superintendent Dain Butler said.

“With the Teacher Cadet Program, we are growing our own teachers that will come back and make a difference as teachers with ABSS,” Butler said.

Cooper said that investment in schools, including an addition of $1.5 billion in new funding to support child care and early childhood education across the state, allows students to learn, parents to work and businesses to thrive.

“Eight in ten students go to our public schools. They represent the future of our state,” he said. “I just feel uplifted every time that I get to visit our schools.”